Thursday, August 14, 2014

This Thing is Contagious: Woman at the well invites her townsfolk into her journey

the text: John 4:27-42
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labor.’

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.’


the ideas
Astonished Disciples - could not believe he was talking to a Samaritan woman, but they didn't question the rabbi.

The woman left her water jar - First of all, you see that Jesus never drank. He was "thirsty," in yesterday's passage, to start a conversation. Now, you see this little detail about leaving her water-jar. She has found the living water that Jesus offers. She doesn't need her jar any more. Even more exciting, the word for "Jar" or "water-jar" is the same word used when Jesus turned water into wine in chapter 2 with those huge jars. The first miracle of Kingdom abundance is spilling over into these individual lives. Her water-jar, instead of turning into wine, is empty because the river of life in her soul is flowing.

"Come and see" - Another come and see. Though Jesus speaks about spiritual things, what he offers is very tangible. The Spirit is tangible - it is something you experience. You should expect to feel and experience the Holy Spirit in your life working for your transformation, quenching your thirst in faith, and confirming that you are God's child. This is not a grin and bear it kind of faith, this is a "come and see," experience first hand, taste of the living water kind of life.

Remember - sometimes it is easy for us to remember that this woman was a social outcast, even in her own community. That she would be running to these people at all is a thing of mystery. Is she wanting to show them she found the Messiah because that might make up for all her previous failings? Is she proud that the Messiah reveals himself to her first and has come to rub it in their faces? It is probably nothing more than the wild, contagious joy one exudes when finding that one thing missing from your life - all our lives - and, in the spirit of bold love and grace received, boldly offering it to others.

They left... - lots of people want to point out that this woman evangelized, or shared the good news, with her people. Yes and no. She didn't memorize some good points and talk to people, she lived out an experience with Christ and invited others into her journey. There is difference here between asking someone about whether they think they will go to heaven or hell if they died tonight and contagiously radiating Gospel life. Moreover, again "come and see" must be answered in faith with a "left and saw" if we are to encounter Jesus. This is a major theme in John

Jesus isn't hungry or thirsty - doing the will of God is his food. This is soooo like John's Jesus.
Traditional Samaritan clothing

"the fields are ripe WHITE for harvesting" - Many versions  have "ripe" when the word is actually "white." There are a lot people who will talk about some grain turning almost white close to harvest. And this may be true. But there is a deeper meaning here. Remember, the Samaritans, in their traditional garb, are on their way to see Jesus. Imagine this with me: as Jesus is talking about the fields being white/ripe for harvest, the disciples turn around and see a group of Samaritans walking towards them, all wearing their traditional white robes (see the image to the right). There is a multitude of thirsty people who need divine quenching coming towards them. That is the harvest awaiting to be reaped - to offer God's living water to a people without.

from Word to Experience  - from the "come and see" invitation they entered in with faith. From the experience of drinking the living water they experienced for themselves who Jesus is.

the Savior of the world - remember, Jesus does not belong in tribalism. In fact, he comes to bust God out of the boxes, both literal (the temple) and cultural. He comes for the whole world. The Samaritans are the first to experience Jesus stepping outside of Judaism proper. They are the first to recognize this global salvation. Notice, it is no longer about which mountain and which well and which people with them - this is for all.

the stuff
I am an evangelical. This term often brings with it negative connotations from the rest of the world, and probably not without good reason. "Evangelical" has been so strangled and coerced into people's political agendas that the term has become a caricature of what it once was.

Evangelicalism begins roughly in the early 1700's. The movement emphasizes conversion and personal relationship with God through faith, inviting others to experience the new life of that personal relationship, a high view of scripture, and active service for the cause. 

What this has turned into for some is a group that emphasizes conversion by threatening exclusion, inviting others into the faith through debate (apologetics), a fundamentalist/literal view of scripture, and active service in American right-wing politics. I assure you, though this may be one form of evangelicalism, this is only one form.

What does this matter? In this passage, Jesus invites us to be on mission with him in bringing living, spiritual water to broken and thirsty people. Sometimes the church calls this evangelism. But evangelism can be a really scary term and often misused in churches today. 

Instead, consider what Jesus does above. Consider your participation in what Jesus is doing in his mission. He associates himself with broken people who the world sees a "less than." He enters into a relationship with vulnerable people by becoming vulnerable like them (he is thirsty, tired, hungry too). He enters into the lives of the people, lives in their city, serves them, and speaks love and truth into their lives after being invited to do so. He teaches us that we are not alone in this and it is not our job to save any one. There is a sower who has generously been working in the lives of people and communities before we even showed up. Jesus is the savior of the world, we round up the plants that haven been planted. Our job is to be with them, and, like the woman, invite people into the contagious joy and transformation we have and are currently experiencing.

Are you currently experiencing the fruit of a Spirit-filled life? Are you on mission with Jesus? 

Year 2 - Week of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14) - (August 14, 2014)



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